Crime Increase Likely Police Chief Tells Council

She says a court-ordered plan to reduce overcrowding in state prisons will push more offenders into county jails. Counties will put some non-violent offenders on probation and many of them are likely to commit new crimes.

Crime in San Leandro is probably going to increase Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli told City Council members at a special session Monday night.

Spagnoli said the reason for this prediction can be traced to a 2009 federal court order telling California to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.

In April, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill (AB 109) to bring the state into compliance by pushing some future convicts back down onto county jails.

As its part in this process, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors recently finalized a plan to put 848 non-violent felons on probation over the next three years to the Oakland Tribune reported.

The buzzword for this process is realignment and Spagnoli said she and other law enforcement officials see a predictible outcome.

"We know we're going to see the impact of crime going up in the cities," she said.

Spagnoli said a high percentage of offenders put back on the streets will likely go back to crime because they have so few options.

She told of being at a luncheon on the realignment process where, unbeknownst to her and other police officials, each table included a couple of ex-felons.

She said she came away from that event with a new appreciation for what it's like to get released from jail with $800, be unable to get a job with a felony record and probably be without a car to get around.

"They get back into the (criminal justice) system because it's easier," Spagnoli said of repeat offenders. "They get three meals and a shower."

Purpose of meeting was a year-end department review

The discussion on realignment was just one slice of a meeting that lasted over three hours and was meant as a year-end review of the department's performance.

Police officials spent about 90 minutes giving a prepared display. The rest of the meeting was devoted to council member questions and discussion.

In two highlights of the presentation:

-- Spagnoli said about 33,000 San Leandrans live in 137 apartment communities, and these multi-unit dwellings are often crime hot-spots. Police are working with 86 apartment complexes on crime prevention programs and she hopes to bring those successful programs to the rest.

-- The department is now getting an increasing percentage of 911 requests from mobile phones. Mobile calls used to be routed through a regional switchboard but now mobile calls made in San Leandro go directly to local dispatchers.

That's good because it can speed response when a caller uses a mobile phone to request assistance on the street.

But cellular calls don't give the exact location of the caller, unlike those made from land lines. As a result, emergency dispatchers must spend more time asking mobile callers where they are.

The increasing percentage of mobile 911 calls combined with the extra time-per-call have reduced the department's response rate in a key metric.

The state wants 95 percent of 911 calls to be answered within 3 rings. San Leandro is now at 84 percent.

Council voices many thanks and a few questions

Council members found little to dislike in the department's presentation, and were uniformly complimentary of the its performance.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy asked Spanoli whether San Leandro was a safer community than it was a year ago.

She said 2010 was a 30-year low for crime, not just in San Leandro but statewide.

He asked for her three top issues as chief.

She listed crime, especially violent crime which she linked to realignment; traffic complaints which are perennial; and youth issues and "latch key kids."

"Kids either get into trouble or they become victims of crime" when they're out on the street unsupervised, she said.

Cassidy touched on a number of other issues: fear of burglaries among homeowners; a desire for more diversity in police force hiring; the necessity for a SWAT team; and whether there could be more civilian oversight when San Leandro police are asked to assist other cities to quell disturbances, such as has occurred on at least three occasions during Oakland and Berkeley Occupy protests.

Spagnoli said neighborhood watch programs were the most effective deterrent against burglaries. She pledged committment to hiring diversity but said race and gender are not factored into decisions. She said the SWAT team was used 11 times this year in San Leandro, which she described as a high use that justified its continuance.

Spagnoli took issue with Cassidy's comment that he wanted to probe the willingness of fellow council members to provide more civilian oversight to some of the requests for San Leandro officers to be deployed in other cities.

"These phone calls come at 1:30 in the morning and we have to respond by 4:00 am," she said.

Leah Hall December 05, 2011 at 04:38 PM
On youth issues and "latch key" students, I recommend this article which appeared in the Bay Citizen and the New York Times about some cool youth programs in SF. Battling Truancy - on a Boat: Hands-on classes at Downtown High School help SF district cut chronic truancy http://www.baycitizen.org/education/story/battling-truancy-boat/
Leah Hall December 05, 2011 at 04:57 PM
On another tack, my concern is not so much that a 'brisk-paced' transfer is planned (in addition to associated risks, there are lots of social positives, after all) but that a parallel investment of resources for counties will not materialize (i.e., Sacramento will keep the money for other uses). Will their be sufficient budget allocations and resources for best practices at the county level?
Tim December 06, 2011 at 04:30 AM
With all due respect but if I wouldn't compare what I do for a living to what police officers do. The fact that they put their lives on the line every time they begin a tour is enough for me let alone the crap they get from the low lives out there. And I don't just mean hardened criminals. Look at the Occupy protests and the crap they have to deal with from these loons. The average patrolman making 80-100K a year is NOT overpaid imo. The OT needs to be brought under control though. It's not their salaries that make it more expensive to hire more officers, it's their benefits (pension, medical, etc.) I agree we need to make cuts but have you seen what some of these public sector bureaucrats make a year? Take a look at some of the school district employee salaries. We should be cutting the fat and not going after law enforcement.
David December 06, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Tim, I'm all for cutting all levels of bureaucracy. Problem is that public safety takes up nearly 2/3 of the city budget so there is very little room to cut everything else without cutting the police/fire budget in order to bring the whole budget in line with income/inflation/population growth. Cutting pension and medical, I agree would be the most effective way to bring that in-line, but it still amounts to a cut in compensation, and no one on the public sector side has been willing to "share that sacrifice," preferring instead to tax us more (see: Jerry Brown yet again working to jack up taxes on another ballot initiative, and of course SL trying for another parcel tax).
Tim December 06, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Yea, I heard about Moonbeams ballot initiative. The problem is that half the population is made up on leeches that pay no taxes and won't be affected by any tax increase so they will vote for it. The half that does pay taxes is a shrinking number as more and more flee the state of California. The proof is in the 2010 census. If it weren't so hot and dry in AZ, I'd be gone too. I don't know about SL PD but I know many smaller departments that have few patrolmen and an excessive number of paper pushers (assistant chiefs, captains, lieutenants, etc) that have bloated salaries and we could probably do with a less of them and I'm all for pension reform, but I don't think officers' salaries are excessive.


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